Schumann: Sketch for pedal piano, Op 58 No 4 in Db major, Allegretto  [2’36”]

Andreas Rothkopf, organ

13 Daguerrotype of Robert Schumann, 1850

Photography (daguerreotype at least) arrives: Robert Schumann in 1850

Heaven forfend this should turn into a personal reminiscence.  However … consciously or unconsciously my next choice might have been dictated by another memory of 1970s Manchester.  As well as being a Hallé regular I would spend my Tuesday lunchtimes in St Ann’s church, listening to recitals given by the then Hallé chorus master and organist Ronald Frost.  They were free, but there must have been programmes (these ones long gone), for how else would I know that one day he played the set of Robert Schumann Sketches opus 58, originally for pedal piano, of which this is one?  Schumann was a great one for sudden, all-consuming compositional enthusiasms, and rather as 1840 had been his year of song (Liederjahr) and 1842 his chamber music year, so all his pieces written for this instrument (nowadays usually played, as here, on organ) belong to 1845.  Not that there was the same exclusive devotion in the case of this minor genre, this being also the year in which the Piano Concerto was completed and the second symphony begun.

‘Sketch’ is right for this fourth and last piece of opus 58, with its brief, repetitive middle section (1’45”).  It’s nothing more, but perfect in its way, and seeking it out all these years later I found I remembered it (and number two of the set) and still found it strangely striking for all its simplicity.  Who knows why certain music takes our fancy and lodges in the brain?

I googled Ronald Frost, simply to confirm his first name, and was gratified and frankly amazed to find him still active, indeed still Director of Music at St Ann’s, having in 2010 reached the landmark of a thousand recitals there.  On such unsung, tireless practitioners can the world of real music – as distant as can be from that branch of commerce masquerading as music – rely even today.  Praise be.

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